1st Logistical Command

No unit was more critical to the buildup of American forces in Vietnam than the 1st Logistical Command. Prior to 1965, the U.S. Army in Vietnam was supplied by the Army's Pacific Command through the small U.S. Army Support Group, Vietnam, which served under the 9th Logistical Command in Okinawa. With the deployment of division-sized units, it quickly became apparent that the logistical effort required greater manpower and organization. As a result, the 1st logistical Command, which had first been activated during the Korean War, was deployed from Fort Hood,Texas, and arrived in Saigon on April 1, 1965.

At that time, Vietnam possessed only two ports capable of supporting the ocean-going vessels that brought most American material to Vietnam: one in Da Nang that the U.S. Navy used to provide logistical support to the Marines in I Corps, the other in Saigon, which was needed to provide South Vietnam with most of its imported goods. USARV made the critical decision to build a major port at Cam Ranh Bay.  Utilizing the DeLong pier, which operated by hydraulic lifting devices, Army engineers succeeded in completing the port at Cam Ranh in record time. Additional ports were soon constructed at Qui Nhon and a new one at Saigon, where the facility was named Newport. The results were astonishing. In mid-1965, the 1st Log Command, as it was commonly called, could process 70,000 tons of incoming material per month. One year later, that figure had risen tenfold, to 700,000 tons a month, not counting critical items brought in by air.

The development of the ports played a large role in determining the organization of the 1st Logistical Command. Separate U.S. Army Support Commands were established in Saigon, Cam Ranh, Qui Nhon, and, in 1968, when Army units began to serve in I Corps, in Da Nang. Each support command operated independently in maintaining a flow of needed goods to the combat zones. The 1st Log maintained overall control and supervision through the Logistical Operations Control Center located at its Saigon headquarters.

That headquarters was originally located in a single villa, but as the command grew in size, its activities were dispersed throughout the city, making coordination difficult. In late 1967, 1st Log moved its headquarters to the new compound at Long Binh, thirty kilometers northeast of Saigon, which became home for USARV. Long before that date, the 1st Log had become the largest single unit serving in Vietnam. By 1968, the number of men in the command had risen above 50,000.

The diversity of 1st Log activities was astounding. Under its command were truck units, boat companies, railroad facilities, and airlift and airdrop capabilities. Almost every piece of Army equipment sent to Vietnam was processed, transported, issued, and maintained by the 1st Log. Not only was the 1st Log responsible for providing the Army troops with the basic weapons of war, but it also clothed and fed them and supplied them with virtually every amenity available in Post Exchanges.

Many of the administrative functions of the 1st Log were accomplished through the aid of the era's most powerful computers, which attempted to keep track of the 700,000 tons of "imports" each month, but the size of the undertaking almost inevitably led to problems and abuses.

Among the major problems confronting the 1st Log Command was the responsibility for supervising a large civilian work force made up largely of Vietnamese citizens. While great care was taken to screen out security risks, inevitably mistakes were made, the extent of which may never be known. Some supplies intended for American and South Vietnamese troops would up in enemy hands. In other cases, the lure of high profits on the black market proved to be too much for hired civilian workers and even U.S. soldiers.

Equipment was also lost simply because the extent of the logistical effort precluded careful tracking of all material. This problem was further exacerbated during the Vietnamization process when the South Vietnamese proved less than able at mastering American managerial techniques.

Still, when it was finally redeployed to Fort Hood on December 7, 1970, the 1st Log could look back upon more than five years of distinguished service. Two of its number had won the Medal of Honor, and thousands of others had maintained the distinction of seeing the American Army the best supplied and best equipped in the world.

1st Logistical Command

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